Thursday, August 9, 2007

Looking To The Stars - Spider-Married-Man, No More?

We’ve known for quite some time now that Marvel Comics Editor in Chief Joe Quesada is not a big fan of the Peter Parker/Mary Jane Watson marriage. How? Well, the man is nothing else if not outspoken.

From a statement at the San Diego ComicCon 2006: “I've got nothing against marriage in comics, with the exception of the Spider-Man marriage - which I have been very public about.”

From a Wizard Magazine Interview: When asked about his hatred of the marriage of Mary Jane and Peter Parker, Quesada said 90 percent of writers and editors at Marvel think the marriage was a mistake; it’s a ball and chain around the character. The problem is figuring out how to undo it without retconning the character. Quesada will not divorce Peter Parker.

It is this outspokenness that had Spider-Fans everywhere worried earlier this year, after it was announced that one of Peter’s loved ones would pay the price for his outing himself as a superhero during Civil War. Of course we know now that it was Aunt May, not Mary Jane, who would be shot by a sniper as part of The Kingpin’s revenge against Spider-Man. But at the time, fans were so overjoyed at the fact that Mary Jane wasn’t dead that few were shocked by Aunt May’s near-death.

And now, to add further gas to the fire, this preview image of the cover of what will be the final issue of J. Michael Straczynski‘s Amazing Spider-Man run. It is labeled simply, “The End of An Era”

Naturally, speculation has run wild over the past week with the smart money being on some form of cosmic reboot. The reasoning behind this train of thought is that this issue will follow One More Day - a three-part storyline that promises to take Peter to his darkest hour yet and will feature, among others, Doctor Strange. Since Peter is owed a favor by the good doctor as a result of Peter’s stepping in where Strange could not and reliving all the worst moments of his life up until that point to save the universe, the speculation is that Peter will ask for Mary Jane to be given a nice, safe life without him.

The supposed end result will be a Peter Parker free of marital bondage and (depending on which blogs you read) a more fun, happy book with lots of sexy love triangles, the resurrection of Gwen Stacy, another raise of the minimum wage, the banishment of the organic web-shooters, free beer, Eddie Brock as Venom again, all our soldiers home from overseas, Peter having a secret identity again and one free model dressed as the superheroine of your choice for every fanboy with the Marvel logo tattooed on their pale pimply behind.

See, I’d like to believe that this is all a scam. I’d like to believe that despite his own opinions, Joe Quesada recognizes that the wishes of the majority of fans outweigh his own opinions as an editor and that the problems caused by magically nullifying Peter Parker’s marriage will far outweigh the benefits. I’d like to believe that all this worry and all this hype is just an attempt to get people to buy the comic regardless of what actually happens by playing off his image as the heartless editor.

I’d LIKE to believe that.

Regardless, here’s my five reasons why attempting to end the Spider-Marriage by ANY means (cosmic reboot, divorce, sudden death, Mary Jane suddenly being revealed as a clone after all these years) would be the biggest possible mistake Marvel Comics could make.

1. It Didn’t Work The First Time.

The Spider-Clone Saga originally came about because way back in the 90’s, The Powers That Be at Marvel felt that sagging Spider-Man sales had to be because of the Spider-Marriage. As opposed to, oh say… the fact that artwork had become more important than story and that they basically retold the same Venom story once a year. The problem is that even then, they knew that divorcing Peter or killing Mary Jane were right out. If marriage made Peter “old” to their readers, than making him a divorcee or a widower would do nothing to solve the problem. The fact that Mary Jane had a fanbase of her own wasn’t even a consideration in those days.

Instead, they spun the idea that the Peter Parker we’d been reading about since the early 70’s was actually a clone of the original, who had been in hiding all this time. The clone and MJ were shunted off-stage to begin a life of their own elsewhere as Peter – “the real Peter” - came back, assumed the name of Ben Reilly, and took his place as the one-true swinging-single Spider-Man.

Well, that was the plan, anyway. The sales proved that the fans – that is, the people who were actually reading the books as opposed to double-bagging them before sealing them in a vault somewhere - HATED the “real” Spider-Man and even more of them missed Mary Jane. A contrived solution was hatched, revealing the “clone” Peter to be the “real” Peter and the whole thing to have been the first of many machinations plotted by a resurrected Norman Osborn.

2. It Didn’t Work The Second Time.

Less well remembered, but no less important is the occasion when Marvel Editorial actually DID try killing Mary Jane. It was the Winter of 1999. Marvel Comics had just rebooted what few series they hadn’t restarted with new #1 issues. This included both Amazing Spider-Man and Peter Parker: Spider-Man. And yet, despite this - with Howard Mackie (one of the brains behind The Spider-Clone Saga) writing both of Spider-Man’s regular monthly books and a new origin series by John Byrne - the sales on Marvel’s flagship hero refused to rise.

Clearly this was all the fault of Mary Jane and her forcing Peter into marriage!

To make a long story short, over 18 months it was revealed that Mary Jane had not, in fact, died in a plane bombing on the way to a model shoot. She had, in fact, been kidnapped by a nameless telepath who, unable to control his powers, became locked in on Peter’s mind. Said telepath, who was never given a name, concluded that Peter was wasting his life helping an ungrateful populace and then contrived to try and take Peter’s life and powers by mentally absorbing him.

The plan backfired when the telepath absorbed enough of Peter’s personality to realize that Peter would not ever kill someone to prolong his own life. He committed suicide, exploding (somehow) and once Mary Jane thought of a plausible excuse to explain away where she had been for the last few months of comic time, she told Peter that she needed some time apart.

Why? Because she felt like she had gone from being a real person with her own interests and life and been stuck being “Mrs. Parker” – a major complaint that many fans had about Mary Jane’s characterization throughout most of the 90s. Peter agreed they needed some time apart and this set the stage for the beginning of J. Michael Straczynski‘s run one issue later.

3. If I Could Turn Back Time…

Presuming that Peter would be given a chance, by Doctor Strange, to magically alter his past… would breaking up his marriage really be the first thing Peter would do?

You don’t think that maybe he might want to save a currently critically wounded Aunt May’s life?

Save Gwen Stacy?

Save Uncle Ben?

Wish he’d never been Spider-Man in the first place, so they could all be saved?

I doubt Peter would ever wish for that last one – he knows he’s done too much good as Spider-Man to risk having it all undone for a selfish wish of his own. I’m just saying that there are a lot of options Peter would consider before taking a course of action he couldn’t guarantee would work.

4. Hypocrisy

Joe Quesada has been nearly as vocal about how DC Comics solves many of their story problems with magic and mind-wipes as he is not a fan of the Spider-Marriage. Numerous Marvel fans on the web are equally outspoken, saying that when DC has problems with their history, they just reboot the universe and create a new set of problems.

Regardless of the validity of this point of view, Joe Quesada would be a hypocrite to push a storyline in which, somehow, history is changed to something more agreeable to the editorial demands of the time. And I doubt the Marvel Fanboys would be very forgiving – I know several who stopped collecting after House of M.

5. Marriage Is A Partnership

The very idea that Peter would, behind Mary Jane’s back, make a decision to get her out of his life forever flies in the face of too much characterization. This is not to say that Peter is not that selfless or noble – he is. But his marriage means too much for him to make that kind of decision without consulting Mary Jane first with everything that she knows now.

To cross media for a moment, consider the second Spider-Man movie. At the end of that film, Mary Jane knew everything about Peter’s secret identity. He told her that was the only reason he’d been so standoffish to her before – because he already had the blood of one loved one on his hands and that he loved her too much to risk her dying because she was Spider-Man’s girlfriend.

Thankfully, she didn’t let him get away with it.

I’m pretty sure the comics Mary Jane would have told Peter off a lot sooner and wouldn’t have been quite so nice after she abandons her wedding to go tell Peter her decision is that she isn’t letting go of him. But the end result is the same and the spirit and speech are true to any incarnation of the character of Mary Jane Watson.

“I know you think we can't be together, but can't you respect me enough to let me make my own decision? I know there'll be risks but I want to face them with you. It's wrong that we should be only half alive... half of ourselves. I love you. So here I am - standing in your doorway. I have always been standing in your doorway. Isn't it about time somebody saved your life?”

Mary Jane is wise enough to know what Peter needs better than Peter himself. She knows that the last thing he needs is to sequester himself alone, living a monk’s existence and living only for a greater good until what Peter sees as an inevitable violent end. And in a symbolic way, in that scene, she is marrying Peter.

There are many different marriage vows, but most do include some variant of the phrase “for better or worse” and speak of a joining of two lives as one. Mary Jane’s speech is very much in keeping with this spirit as well as a declaration that she knows the risks a relationship with Peter entails and why she is willing to brave anything for him just as much as he is for her.


Thankfully, it seems that the fans’ memories are much longer than that of the Marvel Comics editorial team. As of this writing (Thursday morning, August 9th), a poll at Newsarama shows that the fans overwhelmingly support the marriage over Peter becoming single again, by a near 5:1 margin. 67% vs.14%

Well, rest easy, gentle readers and refuse to give in to the hype. Don’t waste your money – let me waste mine for you!

Yes, you heard me. I will, this once, end my ban on reading any Marvel Comics not by Dwayne McDuffie, Dan Slott or Ed Brubaker so that I can make sure – one way or another – that the sanctity of marriage is upheld!

And if it is not, we shall cry havoc and let loose the dogs of war! We will fight them on the message boards! We will fight them on the blogs! We will flood their mailboxes with letters of protest and likely cause many messages to be bounced!

That’s my promise. See you all next time.


  1. What I found interesting about the whole ben reilly thing is actually I liked Ben. But I liked Ben as a seperate character I never considered him 'OG spidey' but I knew they were going to fix that....*eyeroll*
    god mind wipes and stuff... someone want to point out Dr. Strange doing that little too similar to what happened with Flash and Spectre.

  2. I believe I do that in the Hypocrisy section. :)
    And I realized after writing this that Marvel Comics HAS rebooted their universe on a few occasions. Genis-Vell did it a few times. Thanos did it twice. Hell, God - in the form of Jack Kirby - did it once for the Fantastic Four.

  3. While I have never liked the Peter/M.J. marriage (the whole thing seemed forced to me), I'm not a big fan of what's happening with Spider-man over at Marvel right now.
    Then again, I haven't been a fan of what's been happening to Spider-man since Sins Past.

  4. Well, in case you didn't know, the Peter/MJ marriage in the monthly comics WAS forced.
    See, Stan Lee had decided to have Peter and MJ - who had dated forever and ever in the newspaper strips he wrote - get married. It was then that Marvel decided that the continuity for the monthly comics had to match the daily strip. So MJ, who hadn't appeared for a few years in Amazing Spider-Man, was brought back and a romance was hurriedly assembled.
    As for Sins Pasts... well, that one is Joe Quesada's fault depending on who you ask.
    Reportedly, JMS' original idea for Sins Past involved Peter finding out that Gwen had traveled to Europe to have his child in secret (a common occurence for young women of means back then) and that she died before she could tell Peter the news.
    It was Joey Q who suggested it would be better for Gwen to have been knocked up by Norman Osborn, have MJ be in on the secret and for there to be twin accelerated growth goblin babies raised by Norman in secret.

  5. They should get rid of Peter Parker and focus on MJ XD
    Hey, Joe should be happy, Peter's not married nemore! And honestly if you had to pick somebody who was the emotional baggage in that relationship it's Peter NOT MJ. If nething Peter holds MJ back, and she's fine with that b/c she luffs him XD Peter has been SO MUCH better for MJ, I can't see how somebody could think she's ruining the Spiderman books! :\
    Say what you will for DC and it's magic retcon buttons but at least Didio's not obsessive about getting rid of Lois so Superman can be a swinging bachelor XD (tho mebbe b/c he's obsessive about his quest to rid the world of Nightwing XD)

  6. Believe it or not, I did know it was forced; I just forgot while writing the comment.
    As for Sins Past... Well, Sins Past is why I don't hang out in forums. Talking about it doesn't exactly bring out the best in me. I rank it right up there with the worst stories I've ever read. Had it come out unaltered by editorial hands (assuming that was the case)... I dunno. It might have worked, it might have ticked me off just as bad. Who can say.
    Incidentally, I should have complement you on a fine essay. Sorry about that lapse.

  7. Believe it or not, I did know it was forced; I just forgot while writing the comment.
    I believe it. You seemed a little too knowledgable not to know that. Hence why I added "in case you didn't know". I thought there was a chance you might not.
    Incidentally, I should have complement you on a fine essay. Sorry about that lapse.
    It's okay. I assume that everyone enjoys my writing unless they say otherwise when they post here. :)

  8. They should get rid of Peter Parker and focus on MJ XD
    What? Madness! That would never work...
    And honestly if you had to pick somebody who was the emotional baggage in that relationship it's Peter NOT MJ. If nething Peter holds MJ back, and she's fine with that b/c she luffs him XD Peter has been SO MUCH better for MJ, I can't see how somebody could think she's ruining the Spiderman books! :\
    No joke. I think it's very telling that in the House of M Spider-Man special Mark Waid wrote (one of the few things to come out of that series) Mary Jane was the most popular actress in the world. Which says a lot about where Peter thinks she would be without him if not how far she could go with all other things being equal.
    And even without an all black costume, Peter is the poster boy for emo/neo-romanticism.

  9. Matt, check out this entry on my blog for a dumbed-down and picture-filled (but still entertaining) version of your post.
    I made this entry BEFORE I saw your post, but I was inspired to add the Ben Reilly pics AFTER reading it.

  10. Well, I'm amazed more people don't remember that story from 7 years ago.
    Then again, given that I was recently thanked by a woman for knowing who Mister Fear was and taking time out in a review to explain who he was after she was chewed out for trying to explain who he was to a different critic who basically complained about Brubaker using rare, obscure characters... perhaps the fanboys who actually track down all the old stories with a character they like are a dying breed.

  11. The only character with red gloves I can think of is Daredevil. And even though he's a great detective, he obviously isn't "looking" at the piece of glass he's holding.
    The movie franchise seems to say they won't undo the marriage. Although the movie franchise didn't have them bring Harry Osborn.
    Well, no matter what happens with the marriage, they aren't killing Aunt May. Even when they kill Aunt May they can't kill Aunt May.

  12. Uh... have you been reading Amazing Spider-Man recently?